Car History

The Rover P4

The Rover P4 is today one of the best-loved classic saloons of the 1950s and 1960s, and symbolises an age when motoring in Britain was a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. Yet the car had a difficult birth in the late 1940s, when Rover struggled to find an acceptable modern design which would not alienate their traditionally conservative customers and would nevertheless not date too quickly to have the long production life so necessary for a small company's survival.

When the P4 was introduced in 1949, its styling was criticised as Transatlantic (and indeed a Studebaker had been the primary inspiration), but when is ceased production in 1964 it was viewed as the last survivor or a characteristically British middle-class saloon.

Through its 15-year production life, the P4 changed a great deal in detail, but it always retained something of an olde-worlde charm with its upright driving position, its spacious interior with comfortable leather-upholstered seats, and its vintage first gear whine.

Yet even though it would be the last Rover saloon to be designed with a separate chassis, it was also innovatory in many respects, pioneering overdrive, automatic transmission and overhead-valve engines in the Rover range.

Today, the most popular model is probably the six-cylinder 100, but the other models have a strong following too, and there is a special place in the hearts of P4 enthusiasts for the rarer types, such as the original "Cyclops" 75 and the 105R with its Roverdrive transmission.

A total of 130,342 P4 Rovers were built, and today they are catered for by a thriving club, the Rover P4 Drivers' Guild.


These dates refer to calender-year and not to the Rover model-year
Introduction of the Rover 75
Appearance of the 75-based gas turbine car, JET 1
"Cyclops" grille replaced by new type with vertical slats; headlamps in circular recesses.
Introduction of the 60 and 90; floor change replaced column change. 
Pininfarina drophead coupe prototype.
"Torpedo" sidelamps on front wings; raised rear wing and boot line, with new tail lamsp and wrap-around rear window.
Overdrive option on 90; individual front seats optional; pleated seats on all cars.
105R and 105S added to range. 
Revised nose and front wings with sidelights inset and indicators at top corners; new dividing line for two-tone paint. Overdrive optional on 60 and 75
New seats with plain leather edging panels
Recessed grilles and chromed rear number plate embellisher; 
105R ceased production and 105S renamed as 105.
60, 75, 90 and 105 all ceased production. 
80 and 100 models introduced with disc front brakes and overdrive as standard.
80 and 100 models replaced by 95 adn 110.
End of P4 production


The Rover P5 & P5B

The Rover P5 was the last great representative of traditional British luxury saloon building, with the emphasis firmly on quality rather than sportiness. Its spaciousness, refinement and wood and leather charm still command a considerable classic car following today, evocative as these qualities are of a calmer, more graceful motoring ear.

Today, the later V8-engined cars are more popular than the earlier six-cylinder types which were nevertheless built in much larger numbers. The favourite is the 3.5 litre Coupe, which combines the stylish good looks of the low-roof bodyshell with the performance of the V8 engine.

Nevertheless, the earlier cars have a very special character of their own, and it should not be forgotten that 3-litre saloons were the cars with which Rover entered the world of international rallying in 1962, or that their success in that field eclipsed their maker's own expectations.

The P5 and P5B were the favourite cars of Her Majesty the Queen during their production life, and the very last P5B of all was specially finished for Her Majesty's personal use. It is now in the Heritage Museum at Gaydon. There were 48,548 3 litre P5s, plus 20,627 P5Bs. In addition, there were 131 cars with 2.6 litre engines and 25 with 2.4 litre types.


These dates refer to calender-year and not to the Rover model-year
P5 introduced as Rover 3-litre.
Revised MK. IA 3-litre models introduced. 
2.4-litre and 2.6-litre export variants introduced.
Revised Mk II models and new Coupe variant announced.
Mk. III 3-lire Saloon and Coupe introduced.
3.5-litre Saloon and Coupe (P5B) models replaced 3-litres.
Model-names changed to 3.5-litre Saloon and Coupe to avoid confusion with new P6B 3500 model.
Production of 3.5-litre Rovers ended


The Rover P6

The P6 saloon represented a revolution for Rover. It had no carry over engineering from existing models, it was built in an entirely new plant, and it was aimed at a younger clientele than its predecessors. Its price, fittings and high quality kept it well within familiar Rover territory, but its more sporty nature was new to Rovers.

This was emphasised by a successful rally programme using 2000s and 2000TCs, and then by the V8-engine models introduced in 1968 and the manual-transmission 3500S of 1971. The latter proved a popular Police traffic patrol car, its high performance making it ideal for enforcement duties.

​Whereas the P4 had been built on a separate chassis and the P5 had featured a sturdy front sub-frame under its monocoque body shell, the P6 went a stage further with "base-unit" construction, in which unstressed outer panels were bolted to a strong skeletal inner structure.

It also had all-round disc brakes and radial tyres from the beginning, while a De Dion rear axle gave excellent handling and roadholding.

The P6 and P6B (V8-engined) models are popular and affordable classics which remain perfectly capable of everyday use today. The higher performance of the V8 engined cars makes them more sought-after, but all models are very practical choices for the Rover enthusiast. They are catered for by The P6 Rover Owners' Club and Drivers Club.

Exact production figures for the P6 range have not been established, because some records are missing. However, it is generally accepted that around 330,000 P6s were built, of which some 80,000 had the V8 engine.


These dates refer to calender-year and not to the Rover model-year
Rover 2000 introduced
2000TC (twin-carburettor) and 2000 Automatic introduced
Single-carburettor models renamed as 2000SC and 2000SC Automatic. 
Federal 2000TC and 2000 Automatic models for USA.
Three Thousand Five introduced with V8 engine and automatic transmission (known as P6B).
Federal 3500S for USA, with automatic transmission. Panelcraft estate conversion available
Major facelift for all models (popularly known as "Series 2" changes); Three Thousand Five renamed as 3500.
3500s introduced with manual transmission. 
Rover withdraws from US market.
2200SC, 2200SC Automatic and 2200TC replace all 2000 models; Borg Warner type 65 replaces type 35 automatic on 3500; compression ratio of V8 engines lowered to suit 98-octane fuel; Denovo run-flat tyre option on V8 models.
Special-edition 3500 VIP models introduced (77 built).
End of Production